Kate Forbes same-sex marriage comments ‘hurt’ LGBTQ+ people in Scotland: ‘It stings’

Killian Riley and partner

A Glasgow-based gay man, who’s planning to marry his partner, says he’s been left “shocked” and “disappointed” by first minister frontrunner Kate Forbes’ revelation she would have voted against same-sex marriage being legalised.

Killian Riley, who’s also a Scottish National Party activist, told PinkNews that while Forbes’ beliefs were not unexpected – as she has spoken out against abortion and gender-law reforms before – it shows “she’s not an appropriate person to be leading the SNP”. 

“[Her words] make me feel hurt, they are a stark reminder that there is still a decent chunk of our society that doesn’t see my relationship with my partner as equal to that of a straight couple,” he says.

“You know that people do think that, but you often forget that they’re throughout society, not just on the fringes. It stings.”

On Monday, the cabinet secretary for finance and the economy, who has been the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch since 2016, officially launched her campaign to become Scotland’s new first minister

On the same day, she revealed that she would not have voted for equal marriage – a statement that brought a swift backlash from within the party, including from people who, hours earlier, had backed her campaign. 

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Kaet Forbes and Nicola Sturgeon
First minister candidate Kate Forbes would not have voted for same-sex marriage (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The leadership hopeful told The Scotsman and Channel 4 News that she would not have supported equal marriage as a “matter of conscience” if she had been a member of parliament when the legislation was passed nine years ago. 

“Angela Merkel is the example I would follow,” Forbes said. “I would have voted, as a matter of conscience, along the lines of mainstream teaching in most major religions, that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

However, she added: “I would have respected and defended the democratic choice that was made. It is [a] legal right now and I am a servant of democracy, I am not a dictator.”

Reacting to Forbes’ words, Riley – who works for an MP – shared a photograph of himself and his partner on Twitter with the caption: “I don’t care what Kate Forbes thinks, I’m marrying this man!

“To have someone who opposes such a basic right as the leader of what is supposed to be a socially liberal, progressive party, would be abhorrent.” 

“We always knew she had a difference of opinion, but to come out and brazenly say it in the press when she’s standing for the position that she’s standing for was shocking,” tells PinkNews.

“It’s disappointing that she thinks it’s appropriate to bring that up when she’s trying to stand as the leader of what is, in my opinion, the most progressive party in the UK.” 

The response to Forbes’ belief has been “incredibly heartening” for Riley, who praised the SMPs who have come out “loudly in support of equalities, gay marriage and trans rights”. 

He added: “As a country, as a nation, we are concerned about equality, we are concerned about our friends and neighbours having the same rights. I think this is something the wider public will be concerned about as well, especially with some of the things that we’ve got coming up in parliament.

“I think the vast majority of people will support the ban on conversion therapy, support challenging the UK government’s Section 35 order and the buffer zone legislation. 

“I think the wider public would be concerned to have a first minister who opposes those things.” 

As an LGBTQ+ person himself, Riley acknowledges the “great concern” which is felt within the community at the moment, especially in Scotland following Westminster’s veto of Holyrood’s gender law reform bill. 

“Our rights have never been under so much scrutiny, certainly not in my adult life,” he said. 

Despite this, he remains hopeful for the future, both for LGBTQ+ rights and the SNP as a political party.

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